Lok Sabha Passes Triple Talaq Bill Amid Opposition Walkout
Muslim women show their fingers marked with indelible ink after casting votes for the Assembly elections, outside a polling station in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. (PTI) 

Lok Sabha Passes Triple Talaq Bill Amid Opposition Walkout

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Lok Sabha passed the bill to ban triple talaq, with the government asserting that the law was required as hundreds of cases of instant divorce have come to the fore despite Supreme Court striking down the practice.

Replying to the debate on the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the law was also required to prescribe punishment for those violating it.

A move by the Opposition to stall the bill at the time of its consideration was rejected by a division vote of 303 for and 82 against. Several amendments moved by the Opposition were defeated.

The clause in the bill which criminalises the practice with a jail term of up to three years for the husband was passed by a division of 302 in favour and 78 against.

The bill was passed by voice vote amid walkout by Congress, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress, DMK among others. The bill was passed by the 16th Lok Sabha but could not pass the Rajya Sabha hurdle yet.It will face scrutiny of the Upper House again.

Responding to questions raised by members, Prasad said 574 cases of triple talaq were reported since January 2017 and 101 after the issuance of an Ordinance in this regard.

The minister said despite the August 2017 judgement of the apex court, cases of instant divorce are being reported. He said this was the main reason behind the proposed law. He also questioned the opposition to jail term for the husband who gives instant triple talaq.

“When Hindus and Muslims are jailed under dowry law or Domestic Violence Act, no one objects. What is the objection in penalising the practice,” he said.

As a deterrent, the bill prescribes a jail term of up to three years for the husband for pronouncing triple talaq, he said. On why the NDA government was coming out with a bill concerning Muslim women, the Minister said because the practice is prevalent in the Muslim Community and not in any other community.

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Quoting a commentary by Amir Ali, Prasad said that even Prophet Mohammad was very much opposed to this practice and had on an occasion asked his follower to take back his wife. He regretted that despite the explicit opposition to the practice of instant triple talaq in Islamic texts, “the House has to discuss it for the third time.”

The intention of those opposing the bill or those wanting it to be referred to the standing committee or select committee is to stall it, he claimed. He wanted to know why there was no opposition to provision of jail term in Dowry Protection Act and other personal laws concerning Hindus.

“Modi sarkar ghum-ghum ke nahi chalti, sidhe chalti hai,” he stressed. (The Modi government does not beat around the bush. It acts clearly). He said that Congress could have banned this practice in 1986 at the time of Shahbano controversy but did not do so because of vote bank politics.

“Triple talaq is regulated in 20 countries. When it can change in countries following sharia law, why can’t in a secular country,” questioned Prasad. He said that even All India Muslim Personal Law Board did nothing in pursuance to a promise made to the Supreme Court that it would educate Muslims and ensure inclusion of safeguards against instant triple talaq in nikkah nama.

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“I am the Law Minister of the Narendra Modi government and not of the Rajiv Gandhi Government,” said Prasad, adding “this is not a question of religion, faith or vote, it is a question of nari samman (women dignity) It is about doing justice to women.”

He said what the bill seeks to ban is talaq-e-biddat and not other forms of talaq. Although BJP gets less of minority votes, the party works for the welfare of all communities, the Minister said.

In the context of banning instant triple talaq, he said, “for us only stake holder is women who had suffered on account of triple talaq and not the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.”

With regard to issues raised by members on mob lynching, the Minister said that action was being taken against the culprits under the IPC. Seeking to allay fears that the proposed law could be misused, the government has included certain safeguards in it such as adding a provision for bail for the accused.

While the bill makes it a “non-bailable” offence, an accused can approach a magistrate even before trial to seek bail. In a non-bailable offence, bail cannot be granted by police at the police station itself. A provision was added to allow the magistrate to grant bail “after hearing the wife”, the government has said.

The wife is entitled for subsistence allowance to be decided by the magistrate after she files a complaint against the husband. There cannot be any maintenance as instant triple talaq itself is illegal and there is no legal separation, the minister said.

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